ScanDay FAQ

Help engage in building, sharing, and preserving North Dakota history by participating in a ScanDay! Browse the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) below to learn more about ScanDay.

What is ScanDay?

ScanDay is an event hosted in libraries, schools, and institutions across the state, in which Digital Initiatives staff from the North Dakota State Library bring scanning and photography equipment to a community and digitize historical photographs, documents, and objects.

The purpose of this event is to get residents to engage in building local and state history by bringing in personal records, photographs, objects, etc. to be digitized and then displayed online on Digital Horizons.

Most libraries, institutions, and even members of the public do not have the necessary knowledge or equipment to handle digitization projects like this, but this is where Digital Initiatives can help.

What is the procedure of a ScanDay?

Participants will sign up for a time slot before the event takes place. The local organization hosting the ScanDay will have a signup sheet for participants. Participants can sign up for a 30 minute time slot. State Library staff can only accommodate two participants during a 30 minute time slot, and 10-15 items per person (due to limited staff/ equipment and the processing time required). Participants should have their items selected ahead of time, before going to the ScanDay event.

If a local museum or historical society is interested in signing up as a participant, they can bring about 20-30 items and are allowed to sign up for two 30-minute time slots (one right after the other).

If you have more than 10-15 items (or certain items like scrapbooks, booklets, etc.) it may take too long for them to be digitized at the event. However, if you want to have these items digitized and added to Digital Horizons, Digital Initiatives staff may have to borrow the items for a period of time. The items would later be returned upon completion.

When arriving at their allotted time, participants will be greeted by State Library staff, who will then work with participants to review and assess the materials brought in.

Participants will be asked to fill out and sign a form, which allows the State Library to digitize the items, as well as retain and share the digital files. During the 30 minute time slots, ScanDay staff will work with participants to get contact information, digitize the items, and record the descriptive information (metadata) for each item.

The items participants bring are scanned or photographed, and then the items are returned to the participants. Flash drives will be provided to all participants, which will include digital copies of their items. Participants will also receive handouts relating to Digital Horizons, the State Library, and preservation.

The State Library will also retain and preserve digital copies of the materials, and they will be added to its digital collections. Staff will later process the digitized items and determine which to upload and display on Digital Horizons.

State Library staff will bring digitization equipment to the ScanDay event, including two flatbed scanners and a digital camera. The scanners can fit items approximately 8 ½ X 11 inches. Any materials larger than this will be photographed.

What items should be brought to ScanDay?

The Digital Initiatives department seeks to avoid limiting what attendees bring to ScanDay events. But to give some ideas, these are various things that would be acceptable to bring: photographs, letters, certificates, journals, artwork, artifacts, memorabilia, scrapbooks, etc. Each ScanDay participant is limited to 10-15 items.

Anything that celebrates or represents certain themes, including but not limited to: North Dakota history, city or county life, agriculture, structures that no longer exist, floods, pioneers, ethnicities, government, military, family history, sports, education, organizations, etc. It is preferred that items brought to an event have a North Dakota connection.

Photographs of all shapes and sizes are encouraged, but they should be clear/ not blurry. The items brought in can be from any time period, but more recent items – like photographs – should have been taken by participants so there are not any copyrights issues.

It is preferred that items brought to an event are identifiable (meaning the people, location, and approximate time period are able to be determined).

Bring as much information on the items as you can. Preparing an inventory, description, or notes of the items before the event would save staff a lot of time. Try to answer these questions for each item brought to ScanDay: Who? What? When? Where?

Here are some examples for photographs to give you an idea:

  • Who?
    • Who is in the photograph? Who is the subject?
    • Include full names (avoid things like “Mom” or “Grandpa”)
  • What?
    • What is going on in the photograph? What is the context?
    • Why was the photograph taken?
  • When?
    • Try to date the photograph
    • Even a date estimation, like “between 1925-1932” or “late 1940s” is better than nothing
  • Where?
    • Where was the photograph taken?
    • Where was the photograph published?

To give you some ideas of what to bring, you can browse the sampling of items brought to previous ScanDays available on the State Library’s Flickr. To give you even more ideas, you can also browse the entire North Dakota Memories collection.

Items that are generally discouraged include: newspapers or newspaper clippings, copyrighted materials (unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder), and anything that contains private information. As a general rule of thumb, do not bring anything to ScanDay that you would not be comfortable having displayed online on Digital Horizons.

What happens to the digital copies collected after a ScanDay?

The Digital Initiatives department works to sort through all the items digitized at ScanDays. After processing is complete, the department works to catalog the information and upload them onto Digital Horizons.

However, not all items scanned or photographed will be uploaded onto Digital Horizons. While Digital Initiatives staff is happy to digitize most items for participants, not all of them fall under the scope of the North Dakota Memories collection. Other reasons for exclusion can include condition, copyright, duplication, lack of metadata, etc.

Items may also appear on the State Library’s social media accounts and promotional materials.

Where can we find the items from ScanDay on Digital Horizons?

Items from ScanDays are part of the North Dakota Memories collection.

To narrow your search to a specific ScanDay location, browse the North Dakota Memories collection, scroll down until you come across the “Repository Collection” filter on the left, and then click on the ScanDay collection to see the items from that location.

What is the responsibility of an organization hosting ScanDay?

The responsibility of the hosting organization is to provide a space for Digital Initiatives staff to set up equipment. The organization will also need to provide a table, chairs, and access to an outlet. Please contact the Digital Initiatives department prior to the ScanDay if your organization has any issues with these responsibilities.

Marketing materials (like a flyer and signup sheet) will be provided by the North Dakota State Library. The organization is responsible for distributing the marketing materials and answering patrons’ questions about the event.

Prior to the ScanDay, the State Library will create a Facebook event and make the organization a co-host; both parties will then have the ability to promote the event and invite participants.

The organization is responsible for lining up attendees. In some cases, the Digital Initiatives department may require a minimum number of attendees to be registered in order for the event to take place.

What can I do if I’m unable to attend a ScanDay but I’m interested in having my items added to Digital Horizons?

If you are unable to attend a ScanDay event but would still like to contribute your materials to Digital Horizons, contact the Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library to discuss options.

  • Digital Initiatives staff may have to borrow the items for a period of time. The items would later be returned upon completion.
  • If you are in the Bismarck area, contact Digital Initiatives about setting up an appointment for you to bring your items to the State Library for digitization.

Will values or appraisals be given for the items brought to ScanDay?

No. The Digital Initiatives department cannot provide monetary values or appraisals for materials brought to a ScanDay event.

Can my items be donated to the State Library?

The North Dakota State Library is not equipped to accept physical items like photographs, documents, and objects. The State Library is not an archive so the physical preservation of these materials falls out of its scope. Certain items like books and histories (county, town, organizational, family, etc.) may be considered for acceptance into the State Library’s collections.

If you are interested in donating your materials to an institution that can properly store and care for them, consider contacting a local museum or historical society. You may also want to consider contacting the State Historical Society of North Dakota (either the Archives or Museum division).

Who should be contacted regarding ScanDay or Digital Initiatives?

If your library or organization is interested in having a ScanDay or if you have questions relating to Digital Initiatives, please contact the department by email at or by phone at 701-328-4663 or 701-328-3495.

What is the Digital Initiatives department?

The Digital Initiatives department was formed in 2012 to share expertise in collecting, creating, and preserving digital copies of items relating to North Dakota’s cultural heritage and government.

The department offers services including training and consultation related to the creation, display, storage, and preservation of digital collections.

The department digitizes, shares, and preserves North Dakota-related materials, many of which are cataloged and uploaded onto Digital Horizons.

The department plans, organizes, and implements ScanDays.

What is Digital Horizons?

Digital Horizons is an online digital library consisting of thousands of images, documents, videos, and oral histories depicting life on the Northern Plains from the late 1800s to today. Digital Horizons provides a fascinating snapshot of the lives, culture, and history of the people who shaped life on the prairies.

Digital Horizons was established in 2007 and has grown to include contributors such as Concordia College, North Dakota State University, Prairie Public Broadcasting, North Dakota State Library, State Historical Society of North Dakota, and more!


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